Ice, blackouts hit thousands at Moscow airports

Thousands of would-be holiday travellers were stranded at Moscow airports after icy rain and blackouts disrupted traffic for a third straight day.

Ice, blackouts hit thousands at Moscow airports

Thousands of would-be holiday travellers were stranded at Moscow airports on Tuesday after icy rain and blackouts disrupted traffic for a third straight day.

The chaotic scene, as exasperated passengers struggled with a lack of information, food shortages and lost baggage, prompted prosecutors to launch a probe on Tuesday into the mass delays at Moscow's two main air hubs.

Only 150 flights took off overnight at Russia's largest airport Domodedovo, which typically runs some 700 flights per day, after freezing rain snapped power lines leaving it in the dark for more than 10 hours over the weekend.

Flight boards were almost fully lit in red, warning of delays and cancellations as passengers slept on baggage conveyor belts and floors of the departure hall.

It would take another two-three days to normalise transport at Domodedovo, the head of Russia's aviation agency Alexander Neradko said in televised comments, adding that priority was being given to passengers stuck since Sunday.

Shortages of de-icing fluid at the Russian capital's second airport, Sheremetyevo, also grounded about half its flights.

Other Moscow airports have also seen traffic severely cut after freezing rain coated the city in a thick sheet of ice, and health officials warned citizens from hazarding out onto the ice-slick streets.

The Russian Tourism Association said some 20,000 passengers have had their flights delayed, though airport authorities say the number is in the low thousands.

Exasperated passengers told the Ekho Moskvye radio restaurants had hiked their price on food and drink, amid shortages, with bottles of water selling for up to 500 roubles ($16).

But passengers still camped on the floor as they awaited information on their flights and scrambled for lost baggage.

As frustration boiled over, one group of angry travellers stormed the passport control at Domodedovo on Monday. OMON riot police have since been dispatched to keep the peace at the struggling transport hubs.

"People are desperate. Fights have broken out... It feels like there is no air in here," one stranded woman told the Vesti 24 television.

Heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures are typical fare for Moscow's airports but the weekend saw a downpour of rare freezing rain that engulfed the city in a heavy layer of ice, cracking trees and downing power lines.

Domodedovo, the largest of Moscow's three airports, served nearly 19 million passengers last year, while Sheremetyevo handled almost 15 million.


Reuters

Last Mod: 28 Aralık 2010, 15:07
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